Monday, June 1, 2009

Run Brooklyn <-> Bike Long Island.

Back from the blogger’s death.

This is what happens when a blogger falls into either a lull, and does not feel like writing or is so busy that there is no time to write. For me it has been the ladder. Living in Long Island has been great so far. I’ve been jam-packed with things to do and all. I could even spend an entire hour just telling you what a wonderful time I had Memorial Weekend with my kids for example. But since this is a runners’ blog, and time is still very limited, I will just jump into this weekend.

What a weekend!

The last time I had a weekend like this was probably last summer when I moved to Long Island on a Friday night, and then did 2 races back to back on Sunday. This weekend I did not move, lol, but I did have two events.

First Event: The Brooklyn Half Marathon.

Although I’ve done this race 3 times, I did not do it last year, and this is a *big* deal, the course was reversed. In other words, the race started at Prospect Park and ended at Coney Island.

Reflections? Well, there are many, but if we want to start in chronological order, I’d have to say that prior to the race, I have been a bad boy when it came to the 3 golden rules of race preparation. Training, Eating and Resting. My training was not too bad, but my eating? Well short of the mark. Too many bad foods. And I am over 160 pounds. Not even my scale wanted to let me know. I have a Tanita scale that decided to go European on me. The other day I had left a bucket with some dirty clothes on it, and now it will only report my weight in kilos. I tried everything to change it back to pounds but it is of no use. All I know is that I weighed 73.3 kilos prior to the racing. I checked it out online and boo, that’s over 160 pounds. I was doing so well in April. May was a total derailment for me.

The NYRR club offered a free shuttle bus from Coney Island to the start of the run. Thank heavens that I drove there as early as I did, as I got on the last bus available. They were telling the people behind me to take the subway. Now I’ve been on that subway fore. We’re talking like 14 stops and easily 45 minutes …. Once the train comes. It was 6:45am when I got on my bus.

The park was incredibly crowded. They indicated that some 12,000 runners had registered for the race. There were not enough port-a-potties, and I really had to go, so I made use of mother nature, I’m sorry to admit. I made sure not to come in contact with anything green however. The last thing I needed was to get poison oak on my jones.

My number for this years event was ‘3240’. There used to be a time when I’d be happy with that. But hey, whoa! I’m a better runner than that! I didn’t even make it into the Yellow corral, let alone Red, so into the Green corral I went….with 999 other runners.

The race started late, but no surprise there, as a lot of people were still coming to the closed corrals, probably delayed due to the port-a-potty situation.

The race started and I must say, it felt a lot hotter than 60 degrees. Even in the park I could feel the heat beat on my neck. I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have put on SPF before the start of the run. The race started by going eastward on the east side drive of the park, and doing almost two full loops, counter clockwise.

The one thing that is challenging about Propsect is the hill on the north east side of the loop. With Central Park, for example, there are a lot of rolling hills. Some of them are sharp, but they never last long enough. With Prospect however, that north east hill is extended much further, and it can be challenging to a person that trains on non-inclined surfaces, like ie. default treadmill settings, or running on the South Shore, like me.

I did, I think, a good job with attacking them, but the bigger issue here was congestion. Unlike past years where the park was the site of the end of the race, and everybody was spread a lot more thinly, there were nearly 12k runners all bunched up. I knew this was a problem from the get-go, when I crossed the starting line, and was still walking 30 some-odd-seconds-later. As a result, my first half of the half was rather disappointing timewise as my overall pace leaving the park was about an 8:40 per mile. UGH.

The mental relief of leaving the park was however outstanding. I actually yelled out “Good Riddance” when exiting the park. Of course, now I had other things to consider, namely the sun. Once protected from it to a large extent, from the trees in the park, I now ran on Ocean Parkway. Not much protection there, except for the tall buildings that would protect us, since it was still early outside, and the sun had not yet set directly over us. I actually enjoyed mother nature better on Ocean Parkway however, because I began to feel a nice breeze, something that was totally missing from the park.

From mile 7 to about 10, I was really motoring, posting 7:30’s for each split. Unfortunately, it was just not enough, and the overspeeding and unevenness of my pacing overall caught up to me just after mile 10. I actually walked the last few yards to a rest stop there, and walked out of there as well. Again, being “overweight” and having slept only 13 hours in total over the previous 2 nights was not helping me either. As a runner, when you start doing these sorts of things over and over and over, you become completely in tune with your situation. I knew for example that I would not be doing a PR simply by my “statistics”.

Typically for me, 155 is ideal weight. I was 161. Whatever my best race is going to be, I usually have to add 1 minute back for every pound that I am over my ideal weight. 6 pounds over for the Brooklyn Half, means a 1:51 time. Add to that the unexpected congestion for the first 4 miles, and that’s another 2 minutes. Add to that two straight night of not sleeping “8” and that’s another 2 minutes. So for me, while I knew this was going to be a *new* course, and thus a PR no matter what, I also knew that my best possible time would probably be in the neighborhood of around 1:55. Bah!
Well, Mile 10 was an eye opener/recovery mile. So in Mile 11, I tried to re-launch my jets. I think I was teeting at about an 8 flat pace, when I decided to see if I could every-so-slightly extend my stride. Mistake.

Despite all my hydration at the various stations, I began to feel that dreaded twinge in my right calf muscle. Before it went into an all out cramp, I nearly slowed to a stop, before rejoining at a normal pace mode. Unfortunately, it was still not enough, and the twinge led to a bad foot cramp. Great. Just what I needed now.

My goal of finishing in the top 25% was really fleeting now. People were passing me left and right as I tended to my continually annoying issue. As we ran under the Belt Parkway overpass, I knew the end of the race was near. And soon after that we were running along Shore Parkway. I kept looking ahead to see where the runners would be making the left turn and onto the boardwalk for the final ¾ of a mile or so.

Brooklyn fans are great by the way. It’s about the only race, where I actually turn off my iPod to absorb the cheery support.

Onto the boardwalk, one could feel the heat. Now it was time to be careful and not step on any nails lifted from the wood planks. This has always been a major nemesis in past races. I did my part and ran in between the studs. At one point there were a ton of 8’ x 4’ plywood sheets on the boardwalk. I decided to run on them. It was great! A lot of bounciness to them, gave me a great spring, and completely absorbed the impact. Hello sneaker companies out there…..Are you reading this??? When is the bouncy shoe coming?

Anyway, I finally crossed the finish line at 1:51:19. Considering the lousy congestion in the park, the warmness of the weather, and the biomechanical breakdown towards the end, it was still the 2nd best time I ever did at Brooklyn, and overall I was very satisfied. No pain in the legs or anything. I came in 2960th out of 9423 finishers. 2287th out of 5078 finishers and

The best part of this race, was yet to come. For nothing beats a finish line better, than a lounge chair, a pair of sunglasses and a nice book to read….right on Coney Island. Oh, and yes, there was fried chicken, French fries, and a hot dog, to go along with my Brooklyn Lager. Ugh, when will I ever learn…lol….

At the beach, I saw Abby who hadn’t run in almost 18 months since his knee injury sidelined him. He said he ran terrible, but he was so happy to have been able to do a half. Maritza, Bonnie and Peggy were also there.

And that was just the Brooklyn Half Marathon…..

The Mansion Bike Tour for Autism.

This would be my 2nd official ride this year, and while I was originally set to do a 62 miler, no one else in my club wanted to venture for that long, so I scaled back. Heck, less than 24 hours removed from the Brooklyn Half, it probably wasn’t a terrible thing to do. Although, I must admit, my legs are feeling pretty good right now (even though I could still use more sleep – after 11 hours of sleeping!!)

First reflections…How nice it is that I did not have to travel far. To get to Syosset, it’s just a quick ride up route 135. After parking at the train station (and boy, would that be a saga later on), I hopped on my bike and rode from there to the start/registration area about a mile away.

First issue. First BIG BIG issue. My rear brake. It did not work!

Thank God that the distance to the start did not involve any downhills. I actually had to ever-so-lightly tap on the front brake and drag my foot across the ground to slow me down. Very unsettling, especially when I had to navigate past stopped bikers in the registration area.

Fortunately for me, they had an onsite repair van and there was only one person in front of me. That was the good news. The bad news was that there was one person in front of me. A person who had all her gears shot, as the repair guy spent something like 20 minutes trying to change out each strand. In the end it was a waste, because she verbally said she was not going to race. UGH. What a waste of time. Then again, shame on me for not realizing doing a pre-tour inspection of my bike either.

They did fix everything, and even filled up my tires too.

When we finally headed out (meaning our team) we must have been one of the last groups. Again, none of this really mattered too much. It wasn’t a “real” tour but more for pleasure. I had mentioned before about scaling back. Our group opted to go the 35 mile route. Probably wise, since we were already the last group to go, we were doing it for the enjoyment (not competing) and food was already scarce by the time we finished up.

We headed west towards Muttontown, mostly flat, and then started heading north towards Upper Brookville and Mattinecock. Lot of downhills here. Thank God we didn’t have to come back this way.

The first rest stop was in Locust Valley. Getting there were some nice First thing I noticed there was that there were plenty of amenities there. I actually had a bottle of HEED (High Electrolyte Energy Drink). It was only 8.5 miles into the ride, but I already felt as if I wanted to go back into my bed. I was still exhausted from having a very pleasurable and event filled Saturday.

The ride between the 1st and 2nd rest stop was absolutely breathtaking. If it wasn’t enough to see multimillion dollar homes along the whole way, and wondering “man, where did I go wrong?”, the view in Sea Cliff was absolutely amazing. The issue with Sea Cliff is the elevation and the amount of time it takes to get to work in NY. I can imagine it must be a pain in the ass.

We stopped at the height of Sea Cliff, and took a ton of touristic photographs. Afterwards, I left with the group, Mel was like, “Dude, where’s your helmet?”
Yep, I forgot it all right and had to go back. I caught up to them

When we got to the 2nd rest stop, I laid my bike down on the grass, and went for food. I was pretty surprised to see that they had PBJ sandwiches, and naturally, I gobbled one down. All in all, I actually gained weight this weekend. Imagine that, lol…

Afterwards I went looking in vain for a bathroom. I got lost and found a small lagoon with lillipads instead. My phone rang. It was Mel. He told me that I had a blowout on my bike.

How is that possible? Doesn’t that happen only when you are riding a bike? I just don’t get it!! As I went up, Ellie told me the same thing, except she was laughing. Ha-Ha-Ha.

Sure enough the back wheel tube had blown completely. Miraculously, there was a bike repair station at this rest stop (and only this rest stop). They not only replaced my tube, and installed it for me, but it was all done at no charge. And considering the fact, that we had a massive downhille ride from Sea Cliff, I already knew that powers beyond my control were at play. What a great day this was shaping out to be!!!! J

We continued now downhill to Glenwood Landing, and onward to Roslyn Harbor. Beautiful area also. Roslyn, the next town over was where we had to make the decision to stay on the course, or head back north into the Port Washington neck and complete a full 62 miles. We stayed the course and continued south through Roslyn Heights where familiar territory came about as we passed under the Northern State Parkway and the L.I.E.

After reaching the eastern edge of Albertson, we headed back east towards the Old Westbury, and the Vanderbuilt Mansion, site of our 3rd and final rest stop. So far, I was holding up well.

We got to the Vanderbuilt Mansion and went in, took several pictures and left again. I was getting overheated by the sun, but not burnt. I took ice cubes, threw them down my back, and in my helmet. It felt great!

After that, it was north past Northern Blvd. Into North Brookville. There were some hills, not very fun, but we made it through somehow. Finally we were back on the same road where we started, and back to the finish.

Burgers and Dogs were already gone, but we did have pizza and other items there as well.
We had a great day, and although I spend nearly 20 minutes looking for my car at the train station (classic ‘Seinfeld’ moment – I was at the north side parking lot, when it was at the south side parking lot), the whole day was absolutely perfect in every way!

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